Independence vs. Safety

Most older people value their freedom. They like to do what they do when they want to do it for as long as they can. They want to enjoy life, get together with friends and go places where they want to.

As they age, their children start to get concerned. They fear for their parents’ safety and they try to get them to cut back on what they do.

The Clash Between Independence and Safety Concerns Can Damage relationships

This frequently harms the relationships between the parents and their children. Let’s look at one such case.

Ann and David had a happy 65 year marriage. They had a large family and were always very independent. Until several years ago they lived in their own home about 80 miles from Knoxville. They loved it and the friendships they made in the area.

When David was 87 and Ann was 83, their adult children felt they lived too far from them. If anything happened to either one, there was no way anyone in the family could get to them quickly. So, their 2 adult daughters convinced them to sell their home and move into an apartment in Knoxville several miles from their adult grandchildren and 25 miles from one of the daughters.

Neither Ann nor David liked the new apartment or the new area. It was difficult for them to meet new people and make friends. David had health problems and it was too far for them to drive back to their old neighborhood frequently to spend time with their friends. However, their children were happy.

David’s health continued to deteriorate and earlier this year, he died. Ann grieved his loss and knew her siblings and friends would help her through the grief process. Those siblings were in different parts of North Carolina. Ann also wanted to visit friends in the town where they had their last home.

To see both her siblings and friends would require driving. Ann felt she could make the trips by herself. Yes, she was 85. However, she had driven that far many times before. She wanted to make these trips as she pleased. She didn’t want to rely on her children or grandchildren to take her.

Her Oldest Daughter Felt Otherwise

She was quite concerned. She heard about all these cases of elderly people having problems driving. It was too great a risk to have a woman her mom’s age driving such great distances.

  • What if something happened to her?
  • What if she had a health issue while driving and no one was there to help?
  • What if her mom was in an accident and she and others were hurt?

Her oldest daughter told Ann she didn’t want her making these trips. It was just too far.

Ann got very upset with her. She felt her daughter was trying to take her independence from her. She was trying to keep her from seeing her siblings and her friends who were so dear to her and who would help her get through her grief over the loss of David.

Neither One Opened Up and Told the Other Why They Felt as They Did

Ann’s daughter never told her she was concerned for Ann’s safety. Ann never told her daughter why it was so important to her to visit her siblings and her friends.

They hurt each other and this resentment is still there.

This whole disagreement could have been avoided very easily.

They Overlooked a Simple Solution

The main question was about Ann’s ability to drive. Ann felt she was a safe driver. Her daughter didn’t. All they had to do was to see who was right. Either her daughter or another family member could get in the car with Ann and have her drive 25 to 30 miles.

If Ann drove that distance safely, she would be safe on longer trips.

If she didn’t, she could not make long trips on her own. Other family members would have to drive her.

There Comes a Point in Every Older Person’s Life . . .

. . . where there is a clash between their desire for independence and their family’s concern for their safety. At those times, each party should make their concerns known to the other. They should test to see if the person can continue to be independent or if steps have to be taken to make sure the older person is safe.

Doing this in a loving way prevents arguments and hurt feelings.